Transcending The Game

Ben Thompson, Head Coach for SUNY Canton Men's Basketball Team

Ben Thompson, Head Coach for SUNY Canton Men's Basketball Team

Front Office Sports is pleased to have sat down with newly hired SUNY Canton Men's Basketball head coach Ben Thompson. Last season as assistant basketball coach at Lincoln Memorial University, Ben quickly saw a great deal of success. The Railsplitters went 34-3 overall, going undefeated in their conference (22-0) and leading them to the national championship game against Augustana University.

Thompson grew up in a basketball home, watching his father coach and knew that he wanted to follow in his footsteps. A 2006 graduate of Virginia Tech, Thompson began his career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He would then move on to coaching positions at UNC Greensboro, Saint Leo University, returning briefly to Virginia Tech before heading to UNC Pembroke and Virginia Military Institute and finally in 2015 landed at Lincoln Memorial.

On Overcoming in His Career

Ben has learned the importance of persistence and determination.

“I think I have to constantly overcome things because I wasn’t a high level player so I don’t have a big name.” 

Not having that familiarity, he has had to constantly maintain his reputation of being a great recruiter and coach, all while maintaining a great work ethic.

Lessons Players Can Use On and Off the Court

For Ben, it’s more than just about the game. It’s important that his players learn how to be gentlemen and apply lessons from the court to their personal lives.

“Being part of a team in college is a microcosm of life—there are things you could do on a team that could get you fired from a job. If you show up late on a team, you will get penalized; if you show up late for work, you could get fired. College is the time to learn from mistakes to help prepare you for life after. Developing into adulthood is a process that is nurtured throughout one’s college career.”

“It is important for our young men to be gentlemen student-athletes; gentleman first, then student, then athlete. It’s about learning how to navigate through life and college and being part of a group that is bigger than yourself. Sometimes you have to deal with being part of a group with people that you might not always get along with; you have to work with them and figure it out for the betterment of the team. Part of the process and growing is everyone’s ability to sacrifice themselves for the betterment of the group.”

On the Success of Lincoln Memorial’s Men’s Basketball

Ben credits everyone’s sacrifice as the main reason for the team’s success.

“The biggest part of our success is that the staff, players, and everyone involved with our program sacrificed what was best for them, with what was best for the success of the team. We had great team chemistry, like none that I’ve ever been a part of. Our guys worked really hard and our hardest workers became our best players. That is the recipe for success; it causes other players to raise their level of work ethic. Our guys generally love the game of basketball and love to play with one another. Oftentimes, guys play because it’s a means to an end, which I understand, but our guys truly love playing together and embraced the day-to-day grind. They enjoyed the process and journey, just as much as they enjoy the wins. Obviously, we didn’t get the ultimate result we wanted, but when you look at what was accomplished, we couldn’t have asked for a better season.”

On His Motivation Throughout Life

As a Christian, Ben’s faith guides him in many of his decisions and he realized how much impact you can have as a coach, with how his father impacted so many lives. As boys mature into men in college, Ben wanted to have an impact on their lives—far greater than just the game.  He’s made it his mission to not only teach the game of basketball but also the way of life—how to treat others, how to handle business, and how to work. In today’s society, Ben admits instant gratification is very much a part of coaching, but to him, the greatest gratification is when years from now, former players reach out and remind him of the life lessons he taught them—for him, that’s better than any championship he could ever win.

On His New Position as SUNY Canton's Head Coach of Men's Basketball

"I am incredibly excited to start this new chapter in my coaching career. As an assistant, I think you always dream of running your own program and becoming a head coach. The opportunity at SUNY Canton is one that I could not pass up. Throughout this process, I learned how special our current student-athletes and administrators truly are. I am excited to progress the program forward, while working with such bright and caring individuals."

Parting Wisdom for Those Interested in the Sports Industry

“You have to love it, otherwise you’ll hate it. From the outside, most people just see the games. They don’t see the 80 hours of work and practice, the late nights spent recruiting or scouting, or the time spent away from your family. Make sure you truly love what you are doing or you will waste a lot of years being unhappy or going through a career change.”

There’s a mantra that the San Antonio Spurs use that Ben and LMU attests to: Pound the Rock by Jacob Riis: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

“That quote means that if you keep grinding and working hard, eventually the wall is going to break.  In that moment, you will realize that it wasn’t that moment that the wall came down, but all the work that you put in prior to that.”

Connect with Ben on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

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